Taking a little more time with your toothbrush can pay off when it comes to protecting against cognitive decline. That’s because poor oral hygiene has a strong link to developing Alzheimer’s disease. In an 18-year study of over 5000 people, those who brushed their teeth less than once a day had up to a 65% higher chance of suffering from cognitive decline. Researchers suggest that the bacteria responsible for gum disease makes its way into the brain, triggering inflammation and brain cell damage.
Taking care of your teeth is an easy way to boost your brain power, but it might take more than daily brushing to get the job done. Follow these four tips to maximize oral hygiene and stave off cognitive decline.
1. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing coconut oil in the mouth for 5-20 minutes at a time. Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that help kill off unhealthy microbes while leaving your mouth feeling fresh and clean.
2. Brush at least twice a day
Brushing upon waking and before bed is a basic rule for dental hygiene. I recommend using a soft brush and a natural toothpaste. If you want to be an overachiever, try brushing after each meal to prevent sugar from sitting on your teeth where bacteria can create plaque.
Turns out that many micronutrient deficiencies are found in those with periodontal disease. The most obvious culprits are vitamins A, B1, C, E, and folate alongside minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and zinc. Eating a whole food diet and taking a high-quality vitamin/mineral supplement can help. However, micronutrient levels should be assessed if you have signs of gum disease.
Oxidative stress, a condition occurring when your body has more free radicals than it can neutralize with antioxidants, increases the risk of periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s.
Boosting antioxidants can be as easy as doubling down on fruits and vegetables. Adults should average 8-12 servings per day.
Signs of periodontal disease or even cavities are a clue your brain is at risk. Don’t ignore these clues; instead, improve your oral health, and those benefits will spread to your brain. While oral care is a great start, it’s far from the only factor to consider when protecting your mind. Many imbalances can lead to damage within the brain. That’s why I use comprehensive screening tools to assess each of my patient’s cognitive health risks. Armed with that information, we can build an effective protocol to support optimal brain function.